Saturday, December 30, 2017


This is a tale of the elusive "Darling" pin.  My mother had a beautiful antique pin, inscribed with the word "Darling".  I always loved that pin, and when my mother passed, expressed a desire to keep it from my mother's belongings.

When my sisters and I began going through my mother's things after she passed, we could not find the pin in with the rest of her jewelry.  We felt really horrible.  Then, miraculously (St. Anthony had a a hand in this!) we found the pin almost by chance, after unfolding a crochet shawl my mother had made.  She had worn the Darling pin with the shawl, but had the foresight to attach it to the shawl with a vinyl (invisible) thread so it would not be lost by accident.  So I took the pin home and placed it in my jewelry box.

A few weeks ago, I was looking for the pin.  I swear I took apart my jewelry box looking for it, but it was not there.  I asked my sister Barbara if she had it by chance - she did not, but promised to say a prayer to St. Anthony, asking for his assistance.  I did so as well.  I looked in the attic, trying to find my mother's shawl.  I couldn't find that either (although I did find a shawl she had made for me).  I felt just awful, thinking it was gone for good.

Today, I set about cleaning my completely messy and disorganized house (Robert is coming here on Tuesday!!).  I have been in the process of setting up a makeup table in an antique desk in our room (more on that in a future blog post).  I decided to do a clean and purge of my jewelry box (something I had planned on doing whilst looking for the pin; there was so much in there that I no longer wanted, and it was bursting at the seams).  And what do you think happened?  I found "Darling"!!  She is now in a small box, safely in the jewelry box, so I will always know exactly where she is.

I'm so happy!

Saturday, November 18, 2017

End of Season Tasks

Last week and this, Paul and I have been tidying up the garden in preparation for winter.  Paul took down our birdhouse for winter storage, we gathered up the tomato cages, and covered some of our perennials.  Paul will run the mulching lawnmower over the grass to collect up the leaves on Monday, when the weather is predicted to be "warm".  We also arranged for Sears to come do routine maintenance on our snowblower. 

Paul and I also went through our canned goods, purging any expired ones, cleaning and sorting.  This was not planned; the upper shelf of our Lazy Susan base cabinet shifted down, needing an adjustment, which Paul took care of.  But I have been meaning to go through it, so all was good.  The trick is to use up all of the duplicates I found and didn't realize I had - how much coconut milk can one person accumulate?!  I see Thai food in our future, maybe some Indian or Caribbean as well.  We are well stocked in vegetable soup for the winter.  It feels good to have that done. 

Sadly, there is a frost predicted for tonight.  So I went out and collected the last of the herbs before they are frozen.  Surprisingly, in spite of some pretty cold and awful weather in the past month, three herbs survived: rosemary, oregano, and parsley.  In keeping with my international cooking, I will also need to make some recipes that use parsley and oregano (Italian, anyone?!).  The rosemary I plan on using to make a rosemary hair rinse (link to holistichabits video/prep instructions here).  Rosemary is great for the hair, and has aromatherapy benefits as well, which apparently one will smell while prepping the hair rinse.

Left to right: rosemary, parsley, oregano

Sunday, October 8, 2017

Michaelmas Party and New Harp Inaugural (Part II - The Dress and The Party!)

There were many moving parts to this party.  Besides the sewing, there was music to be learned and practiced, a hairstyle to be gotten, and food and decorations.  Paul, was an angel, and helped me so much with party set up and as our butler!

I had a special braided style done by Crowning Glory Braiding.

The table beforehand.
This time I have the right dimensioned tablecloth!

The new baby - cherry wood, with a cherry blossom motif

Here I am with the new harp.  
(Excuse the wrinkles in my dress - 
photo taken after I played for the ladies.)

And here are the Tea Ladies!
We had a lovely time.

Friday, October 6, 2017

Michaelmas Party and New Harp Inaugural (Part I - Sewing)

A week ago, on September 29th, I had a Michaelmas Party at my house.  Michaelmas is the Feast of Saint Michael the Archangel (one of my favorite saints, and I say the Saint Michael prayer often: see here).  I had often heard this holiday mentioned in Jane Austen movies, and never really knew what it was.  I was vaguely aware that it was near the end of September. I was wanting a theme for a dinner I was planning for my Tea Ladies.  It was going to be a special dinner, because I wanted to debut my new folk harp, a Dusty Strings FH36S, which was due to arrive at the beginning of September.

So I put together a Michaelmas Party with a Jane Austen/harp theme.  I decided to make a new gown.  I had a nice yellow fabric that I was actually intending for a test pattern that I am involved in evaluating, but I wanted to do something simpler, so I used La Mode Bagatelle's Regency Wardrobe Pattern which I have had in my stash.  I also needed a set of stays that I could wear and still play the harp in, so I bought a Short Stays pattern and the kit from Redthreaded.

The dress pattern: 
I used the crossover bodice with short sleeves

The Redthreaded kit:
I liked this kit, and the owner was very helpful with my questions!

The finished stays

The sewing was rather rushed; as usual I was running out of time, literally sewing up until a half hour before the party.  It is only by the Grace of God (and the fancy-schmancy invisible zipper foot I bought years ago, especially for my machine) that my invisible zipper went in without a hitch. (Yes, I was completely historically inaccurate and used a zipper.  This dress was meant to be a quick costume, not a faithful reproduction.)  The hem I put in is probably The Worst Hem Ever.  Machine sewn with a big basting stitch setting, and horrible on the inside, But it passed muster on the outside.  I will go back and re-do it in the future.  
Stay tuned for Part II - The Finished Dress and The Party!

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Summer Birdhouse

We found this gorgeous birdhouse on Etsy: A Country Way Shop.  It's really well made, and adds such a nice touch to the garden!

Saturday, June 17, 2017

A Pepper Mill

My sister Barbara gave me this awesome pepper mill, part of a gift she and Jack got me as thanks for helping out with my adorable great-nephews this year.  It works spectacularly.  Here I am seasoning some gnocchi before baking in the oven (another Meez Meals prepped dinner).

Friday, June 16, 2017

Workouts With Personal Trainer/Sugar Addiction

I was going to title this, "The Elephant in the Room", tongue-in-cheek, but I am trying to bring more positivity into my life, especially around body image.  It has recently dawned on me, in a BIG way (no pun intended) that I really need to take the difficult steps involved in promoting my own health.

My winter and spring consisted of: feeling unmotivated, not exercising, getting sick at least three times between November 2016 and now (some related to CIRS, but more on that later), and eating horribly, but with sporadic attempts to set myself right.  I would get on a good path, but then feel deflated and unmotivated.  Some of this may be due to feeling depressed.  I have been taking supplements to help this, but the whole exercise piece was missing.  So I stumbled along, knew I was gaining weight, knew I wasn't feeling well even when I wasn't officially sick.  And let's just say that my approach to sugar, ice cream, and candy bars is (and hopefully - was), like that of an addict.

I finally had the courage to step on the scale - shocking.  I know my clothes weren't fitting well, but, you know, tomorrow. I had been thinking of booking some sessions with a personal trainer months ago, but wanted to wait until after Portland.  Then I got super sick, and did nothing.  But eat.

Recently, I watched some YouTube videos on fitness and lifestyle.  I became motivated to try once again to get a handle on this.  In a stroke of luck, I received a free trainer session from the health club since it is my birthday month.  I signed up, was able to choose my trainer online (which was hard, but thankfully I picked one I match well with), and set up the first session.

The first session was mostly evaluation of my strength, flexibility, diet, etc.  Then she had me stand on this diagnostic fitness tool called "In Body":

The In Body told us my weight, which I already knew was up there, my total body fat percentage, my muscle mass, and some other stuff that I wasn't really tuned into (too focused on the first three).  In a nutshell, my fat percentage is too high, and my muscle mass is too low.  It was a lot worse than I thought it would be.  We talked about diet and sugar, and a lot of other stuff.  Ultimately in the end I signed up for a series of sessions.  

I have been exercising every day, even if it is just a walk throughout the neighborhood.  I figured out a .75 mile distance and do that when I don't go to the health club.  And I have stopped treats for now, with the exception of a little bit of nice, dark chocolate (Wei of Chocolate Dark Creamy, sweetened with coconut blossom sugar), and I had a little bit of Tyler's chocolate cake the other night at a restaurant.  I also had ordered some prepped meals from Meez Meals (Mise en Place).  That helped so much with cooking - most of the prep is all done.  I also saw a product on YouTube to add to my smoothies in the morning that seems to help with the cravings.  I am going to go through the fridge, freezer, and pantry over the next few days, and get all set up to promote proper diet. 

So I think I am on the right track.  My trainer worked me very hard today, but I felt great afterwards.  And it is easier to feel positive when one is doing positive things!

Monday, June 5, 2017

Vegan Substitute for Bone Broth

My posting has suffered due to illness.  I won't go into all of it, other than to say that I never fully recovered from a cold in March, and then was basically sidelined for two weeks recently, feeling awful, only meeting the barest of obligations.  But I am finally on the mend again (tired of being sick all the time - what an awful fall and winter I have had!)

I keep hearing about bone broth and how good it is for you.  The trouble is - we're vegetarians.  A while back, I found this recipe for a "Gut-Healing Broth".  The woman who wrote the post brings up some good points:
  • Nutrients and electrolytes in bone broth can be found in vegan-friendly sources
  • The body makes its own collagen 
  • Our bodies can’t even digest collagen whole; rather, we simply absorb the nutrients from our food which provides our bodies with the building blocks it needs to naturally create collagen
  • Eating collagen does not equal having more collagen
  • Healing the stomach lining can be done in other ways
  • The calcium, potassium and other minerals found in bone broth are more than easy to find in plant-based foods plus they contain much, much more goodness
I made this broth.  It had lots of ingredients.  It used coconut aminos instead of tamari or soy sauce, which was interesting (I found the coconut aminos at Whole Foods).  I added Himalayan salt to it (it needed it!).  It had a very strong taste.  I made a big batch and froze a lot of it, parceling out small doses each day of the small Ziploc bagful that I didn't freeze.  I haven't thawed any out since, but will this week.  I just saw an interesting talk on "leaky gut" which inspired me to be more cognizant of this.  

Ingredients all prepped and ready to go

Cooking, after which the brother would be strained.

Sunday, June 4, 2017

Portland Photos At Last!

These photos are from our trip to Portland in April.  We did much more sightseeing this time (previous visit was setting Robert up in a new apartment when he first moved there).  As before, all of the food was marvelous.  Portland restaurants can't be beat!

Fabulous view on the look-out

Ty and Me goofing off

These are from the Crystal Rhododendron Garden:

SOMA Kombucha - Yum!

On the way to the falls - what a view!

These are all from Multnomah Falls - Beautiful:

Thursday, May 4, 2017

I Dreamt of Blue Ballet Shoes

Apparently in anticipation of attending Bea's Thursday ballet class today, I dreamt last night that I was at Sylvia's Pointe Shoe Salon, trying on a beautiful pair of deep blue pointe shoes.  It was a fun dream; I had no trouble getting over the box of the shoes.  They looked awesome, and I wish it were real.

Portland Photos and Post Coming Soon!

Once I get my act together I will be posting our Portland trip photos.  I'll also describe all the places we went.

Stay tuned!

Monday, May 1, 2017

Sad Goodbyes

Our kitty Nugget, who we nicknamed Snuggs, has spent the past several years being treated for bad arthritis of his hips.  Then, about six months ago, he began to lose weight.  We tried three different diet regimens (the vet suspected malabsorption of the intestines, or worse, cancer), but none worked.  He got progressively weaker and stopped drinking and eating.  After discussing with the vet, we made the decision last week to have him put to sleep.

Tyler wanted to be with him when he went.  I was worried that he would feel traumatized, and asked him several times if he was sure.  He held Snuggs as he took his last breath.  It was (is) heartbreaking.

Goodbye old friend

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

To Portland We Shall Go!

Soon to see these two:

And to have some gloriously fun times as well!

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Health Update (Healthy Eating)

So, I have been sick for 2 1/2 weeks.  It started just before I began my healthy living stuff I mentioned in my previous posts.  It just seemed to get worse and worse with each day.  Finally the doctor gave me antibiotics last week.  I also am getting over laryngitis.  I was too exhausted to do much, but during this time the sprouts grew, Paul and I are eating more salads (with sprouts!), and I also tried a healing drink.

But I am finally on the mend.  I still cannot sing due to the recovering laryngitis.  So I doubt I will be able to sing at all for Easter.  This bums me out more than I can say.  Maybe I'll post on those emotions another time.  Today though, I went to ballet class!  So that was a bright spot. (Separate post on that to come.)

Pea Shoot Sprouts Growing Nicely

Healthy Healing Drink:
Coconut milk, Manuka honey, fresh ginger, turmeric
I had peeled the ginger and turmeric that went into the drink pictured
Note: the AC vinegar in the back was not part of the drink!

Friday, March 31, 2017

Microgreen Kit

Continuing on my healthy living theme, I recently purchased a Microgreen growing kit from the Window Garden company.  We bought the tray, some pea shoot sprouting seeds, and a "Veg Ledge" that fits on the window with suction cups.

Here's the kit, unboxed

The kit itself came with tray, soil disc, a water spritzer, and sample pack of seeds.  I bought an extra box of seeds with the pea shoots* - that came with three envelopes of seeds and extra soil discs.  

Seeds planted, tray suction-cupped to the window

In about 10-12 days, I shall be eating sprouts!!

*P. S. Although the packet says "Use Entire Packet", I didn't.  It seemed like too much seed.  I used half.  I suppose I will spend more money that way - buying new soil discs, but I want to easily harvest these sprouts.  I'll let you know how it goes.

Thursday, March 30, 2017

My Chance With A Jaguar!

A few weeks back, Kristin got into an auto accident - fortunately she was not hurt.  But her car suffered damage and had to be repaired.  As luck would have it, the morning she went in to get her rental car, all they had was a Jaguar (I didn't even know you could get a Jaguar at a car rental place).  So she had a lot of fun driving that baby around.  The day she had to bring it back, I asked her to go to a nearby parking lot for photos (and someone may have tried driving that Jaguar around the parking lot, but I am not confirming that!).  So we did.  Probably the only time in my life I can boast to driving a Jaguar.  Cross that off the Bucket List!

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Healthy Living

Which I am struggling with...

I'm not sure if it is age, or being busy, or with the autoimmune issue I'm dealing with (CIRS).  I have really been struggling with eating right and exercising.  But I have been taking some small steps to try and get on track.  We recently had a super warm, sunny day.  I walked to a local market, which is a good fitness walk away from home.  I wore a tank top, put some sunscreen on only my face and forearms (which get hopelessly dark in the summer while the rest of me is as pale as ever), left my upper arms and shoulders to absorb some sunlight.  I got ingredients for some healthy recipes I want to try.  And try one I did.  It was just veggies and a sauce, but it was really good!

Groceries and some flowers for the table (springtime!!)

Steamed veggies with a miso-tahini sauce 
(and my little ducky in his bowl in the background)

Today was cold again, but Grandson wanted to search for Pokemon on the Pokemon Go game.  So we walked very far, probably a mile and a half, or even two.

It's a start, anyway.

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Mardi Gras King Cake (gluten-free!)

We had only a small memento of Mardi Gras this year - a King Cake alone.  I was tied up with appointments, and Tyler and Paul went to Boy Scouts.  So no party.  But I had the presence of mind several weeks ago to order a gluten-free King Cake from Sweet Ali's in Glenview.  It was beautifully made, and included the requisite plastic baby (added after baking, of course). It was really delicious!  I was worried about that, and even considered getting a regular cake in addition, but the whole family liked it.  Sweet Ali's is an excellent bakery.  We are fortunate to have them so close.

There's that baby

om nom nom

Monday, February 27, 2017

Furnace And Humidity (7 Years in the Making!)

A little over seven years ago, I began seeking more humidity for our home, specifically for my harp. What resulted was a *bit* of a disaster (read here).  Fast forward to two years ago, when the humidifier was no longer working, and we had a new one installed.  Sometime between then and now, something happened to the spigot for the thin copper water line that feeds water into the humidifier.  Water was no longer flowing, and the humidifier started churning out white dust (dried water sediment from the pad).  Four days and three repair visits later, along with another leak that started (thankfully) while the repairman was here, we now have a working humidifier.

Friday, February 10, 2017

Kleen Owt!! (Healthy Start/CIRS)

Yesterday I watched a webinar (free!) presented by Dr. Axe.  I was interested in the whole "leaky gut" business because my doctor diagnosed me with Hashimoto's and CIRS (Chronic Inflammatory Response Syndrome) last year.  I had an understanding of how the gut plays into this, but needed reinforcement because I am easily tempted to cheat.  To my credit, I have been working assiduously for the past month to avoid it.  I'm doing very well.  The only hang up is the small amount of gluten contained in the Communion hosts each Sunday (I have read that they do make reduced gluten hosts, apparently low enough that some celiacs could potentially consider using them? But don't go by me on that!! Ask your doctor!)  My doctor felt that for me, a non-celiac, the weekly host would not be a problem.  But I may gently probe around at church, see if they do offer them.  

For those who are not familiar with CIRS, here's a nice general definition from a website:
"CIRS is the illness that occurs when someone who is genetically vulnerable to bio-toxins is exposed and reacts with chronic and systemic inflammation. It turns out 25% of the population carries the genetics responsible for this condition."

I found the webinar talk to be inspiring, just the push I needed.  I wanted to have a small renewal, have plans to make an immune-building soup, plus this yummy other soup I made previously.  But my fridge was woefully in need of a cleaning and purging.  I did this, there was some "Eeew" involved in the back of the vegetable drawer, got the shelves wiped down (need to do the door shelves still).  Here it is, emptied out, waiting for new groceries:  

Groceries are bought, waiting to be utilized.  I started today baking a large butternut squash for tonight's soup.  Tomorrow I'll do the immune-building soup.  I also want to make a soup I posted about previously (here).  It was so yummy, and made enough to freeze, which I did.  Last week I thawed it out for dinner - still yummy!!

I see my doctor at the end of the month.  I hope my month of gluten-free strictness and this new motivation to improve diet even more will pay off.  

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

A Small Collection of Minerals from the Urals (in a Wooden Box)

I liked the book Doctor Zhivago.  At times, it got a little long, and I must admit - the politics got somewhat tiresome.  But it has to be said that the descriptions in the book are stunning. The way the author described food (especially the food), sunrises, landscapes, etc.  Truly poetic.  One part that caught my imagination early on was a part when one of the characters, Misha, an eleven-year-old boy, was on a train where a tragedy had occurred (a suicide). "Misha was examining a small collection of minerals from the Urals in a wooden box - the dead man's last gift."  This little boy made me think of Tyler, and I set out to find one small wooden box of Russian minerals; this would be part prop for Book Club, part gift to Tyler.  I found a lovely wooden box on Etsy.  Perfect: small, six little compartments, beautifully made.  

Then the real fun began at Dave's Rock Shop in Evanston.  The people there are very helpful, and did not seem to mind my rather odd request: six minerals from Russia, that will fit in this box, very pretty ones if you please.  So, I searched through and found some gorgeous specimens.  The only hang up was the last one.  I wanted to have a bright color, but there were no other colorful Russian minerals that I liked.  I broke protocol, and substituted a nice Orange Calcite from Mexico to liven it up.   

To complete the box, I found an old-fashioned looking map of the Urals, copied it and secured it to the inner lid of the box.  I made a key listing the minerals, may eventually put this in place of the map.  But I wanted the Russian map because I brought the box with me to Book Club, where we discussed Doctor Zhivago, on loan for a day prior to being given to Tyler, who will be the new curator of this tiny collection.  

Monday, February 6, 2017

Doctor Zhivago Inspired Edwardian Outfit

For Book Club this quarter, we read Doctor Zhivago by Boris Pasternak.  It is a long book, but good for cold winter days.  The novel is set in the years 1903-1940's, but the majority of the book takes place in 1903-1920's.  I was inspired to put together an Edwardian ensemble with a Russian flair.  I also channeled my inner geology geek putting together a little box of minerals as a prop (see this post for that).

I'll post from the inside-out:
  • Undergarments - If I had more time I would have finished my Edwardian Corset Cover that I had started so long ago.  So I just wore my older Edwardian undergarments.  I did make one tweak though - I had gotten my Erté Titanic Overbust corset from Period Corsets back in 2012.  It came with two sets of lacings for the back: one for the top-down and one from the bottom-up, meeting in the middle.  This makes it difficult though if one wants to lace themselves in.  Since I like to wear my corset during the week before an event to get acclimated to it, it is difficult when no one is home to help, as a two-laces corset requires (for the most part).  So I contacted a representative from Period Corsets, and she very kindly sent me a single long lace, which I re-laced my corset with.
  • Blouse - I purchased an Edwardian reproduction blouse from Cotton Lane on Amazon.  It's very pretty.  I ordered a larger size (I have football-player-shoulders), then took in the sides.
  • Skirt - Oh dear...this was a problem.  I used Rocking Horse Farm pattern #903 (Caution: Do Not Use This Pattern!  Ever!!) that was simply horrible.  The pattern lines for my size did not match up properly, I had to tape together the size small in order to see what they actually intended.  Even with that there was this odd extra fabric on the bottom front that was completely illogical.  There were no dots on the waistband pattern piece - needed for matching to the waistline of the skirt.  There was also a pleat marking missing.  The cut lines for it were on the pattern, and the markings were drawn on the suggested (tiny) pattern layout picture, but not on the pattern itself.  I spent a lot of hours trying to redraw, adjust, improvise.  The result was okay - from the outside.  On the inside there were problems.  It looked okay, but I was very frustrated with the lost time and aggravation of using a terrible pattern.  I will have to write a review on GBACG (Greater Bay Area Costuming Guild).  They have a Pattern Review section.  I so wish someone had reviewed this before and saved me the hassle of working with a dreadful pattern.   

  • Boots - The darling, lovely Manhattan Button Boots from American Duchess!  I love these.  Customer service here was also very helpful with the sizing.  My foot is long but narrow, and their shoes tend to run a bit large.  They gave me good advice on sizing and the boots fit perfectly.  Button hook needed! 

  • Hat - I bought a faux fur hat on sale from Fabulous Furs.  All of their products are faux.  This hat is very warm.  
  • Coat - my coat is a modern-day coat, but I was happy to be able to match the faux fur of the hat with that on the coat.  

Book Club was lots of fun.  The ladies liked my outfit, and even chuckled at my very bad, well-intentioned Russian accent.  I only said a few sentences in my fake-ey accent!  Hello in actual Russian, and then some key phrases I put together watching YouTube videos, and here's a funny way if you need a fake accent in a pinch: Go to Google Translate.  Type in the sentence you want in the first box, making sure you select English as the language to detect.  Once your sentence is complete, change the language in that same box to the language you want to hear, and click on the audio clickable at the bottom of that box.  You'll hear the English words, but with an accent of the language you changed the "Detect Language" to.  It doesn't work with all languages, but did pretty well for Russian.